Ron Paul is a major candidate in large measure because he discusses serious ideas, makes serious proposals and has long been a leader among libertarians, whose positions on liberty and limited government are quintessentially American. These important American values are increasingly given mere lip service by both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Close inspection of Ron Paul’s proposals compels several conclusions about him and his candidacy. Paul either is not really or consistently libertarian or possibly a hypocrite. Paul must have missed all of the classes in law and constitutional interpretation at Duke Medical School. Paul is absolutely unelectable, in the event, as is possible this crazy election cycle, that the Republicans deadlock over Romney and Gingrich and turn to one of the other men left standing. Those are likely to be Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul. I believe Huntman’s apparent resolve to stay the course despite his very low poll numbers is premised on the distinct possibility of such a scenario. (See The Weekender’s column “Jon Huntsman: The Republicans’ Canary in a Coal Mine,” Oct. 27).
Paul espouses lots of libertarian principles, mostly by calling for the dismantling of many, and seemingly most, programs and components of modern American government. These include Social Security, Medicare, federal flood insurance, the Federal Reserve, Medicaid, most other public health initiatives, many cabinet departments and many many more. These must be eliminated in the name of limited government and freedom for the individual. However, Paul embraces or promotes many positions which simply can’t be reconciled with basic libertarian values. Paul’s absolutist opposition to abortion, presumably rooted in his obstetrical experience delivering 4,000 babies, is not only extraordinarily difficult to square with any coherent concept of individual liberty and responsibility, but collides with other Paul positions.
Paul would prevent a woman from terminating her pregnancy in the earliest stages to protect the life and liberty of the zygote, but allow her to condemn that unborn to a life of pain and debilitation by permitting her to use a raft of currently illegal drugs that will be decriminalized and deregulated if libertarian Paul has his way. While Paul would dismantle most of the social safety net and all farm subsidies, he sponsored an earmark providing federal funds for the promotion of the Texas shrimp industry.
As recently as May 2011, Paul said he would have voted against the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that banned racial discrimination at public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters and stores. The ’64 Act also put teeth in the laws against discrimination in public schools and facilities, employment and those protecting the right of African Americans to vote, assemble, protest and do so free of the police brutality rampant until passage of that law. But in Ron Paul’s view the restriction of an individual’s “right” to post a “No Coloreds” sign on the window of his coffee shop, drugstore or motel not only trumps the rights of black citizens, but is cause to reject a law protecting their ability to exercise most of the basic rights secured in the Constitution. The summer before passage of the ’64 Act, The Weekender encountered a “Whites Only” sign barely 100 miles from Manhattan at a diner in the deep south state of Delaware. Ron Paul is older than me and should remember.
Paul is not very much a libertarian but an ornery guy who knows what he dislikes and rationalizes personal taste and bias with libertarian dogma. In this way, Paul’s romance with owning gold and partially returning to the gold standard gets mixed up with his abhorrence for the Federal Reserve. The Fed was actually created in 1913, a generation after our nation partially dropped the gold standard and 58 years before President Nixon totally abandoned gold. Indeed, it was the requirement that gold back 40 percent of Federal Reserve notes during the 1930s that limited the Fed’s ability to use monetary policy to reduce the severity and longevity of the Great Depression. Ron don’t know much about that, but he sure likes his gold, guns and shrimp. And when he doesn’t like something — well then it’s “unconstitutional.”
Like Social Security, which Paul pronounces unconstitutional despite a ruling to the contrary in 1937 by a Supreme Court dominated by conservative jurists. To justify ignoring that fact, Paul cites the Supreme Court’s upholding of slavery as constitutional. But, of course, it was constitutional until made unconstitutional by the 13th Amendment to that Constitution. Details, details. Actually, Paul sometimes gets it, as when he calls for repeal of the 16th Amendment, authorizing the federal income tax.
So no more income tax, no Social Security, Medicare, NATO or U.N. membership, no NAFTA, flood insurance, agricultural subsidies, Commerce, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Education or Energy departments and so on. The Statue of Liberty stays, but without the inscription about America providing haven for “the tired … poor … and huddled masses yearning to breathe free” because political refugees, asylum seekers and even children delivered in the United States by Dr. Paul to alien mothers are no longer welcome.
Ron Paul is unelectable, not because he champions a return to the good old days (the America he envisions never existed), so much as creation of a United States based upon his own tastes and personal peeves.
This is Ron Paul’s third quixotic run for the presidency and likely his last. When 2016 rolls around, Ron will be 81, an age likely to dissuade a man of medicine from seeking a job that often entails around the clock work. However, Paul’s selective brand of libertarianism will likely live on, first and foremost with his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. Like his dad, Rand is a lapsed physician, wouldn’t have voted for the ’64 Civil Rights Act and champions most of the elder Paul’s causes. The Pauls are the vanguard of an increasing stream of reactionary doctors who have abandoned medical practice to become U.S. senators and representatives. This epidemic will be the subject of a future “The Weekender.”